Friday, November 9, 2012

Canada, The Road To Facism(chapters 9-10)

Written by Robin Mathews

The Battle for a Canadian Economy and a Canadian Voice
(Pages 111-125)

Pierre Trudeau swept onto the Canadian political scene like a prairie fire. Trudeaumania really happened. He was never, however – until perhaps late in his career  – committed to the idea of real independence for Canada. Walter Gordon was uneasy about Trudeau from the beginning, as he had good reason to be.

I was asked, of course, how I could support Trudeau for the leadership in view of the fact he was supposed to be lukewarm on the independence issue about which I have always held strong views …. I gained the clear impression that he approved in principle the proposals contained in the Watkins Report.

That was Walter Gordon just before Pierre Trudeau took on the leadership of the Liberal Party and became prime minister in 1968. On June 13, 1972, Gordon appeared before a parliamentary committee where he expressed his huge disappointment. Gordon quotes his own words that day in his book A Political Memoir:

at the beginning of the month, it was announced in effect that the Prime Minister no longer thought it was important to do anything at all significant to contain the increasing control of our economy by foreigners or, in other words, to do anything meaningful about the Canadian independence issue … It is ironical that while most of the growth in the foreign control of our economy is financed by the retained earnings of Canadian subsidiaries of foreign corporations, part of the funds required are being provided by our own banks and other Canadian lending institutions. In this way, Canadian savings are used to help foreigners increase their control of the Canadian economy.

At the time Trudeau answered a question about foreign ownership by saying he didn’t really care who owned the economy as long as taxes were paid to support government and its programs. Before that, in a 1969 bear pit session with students at Carleton University in Ottawa, he conveyed the same indifference. Asked by a student what he thought of the work being done out of Carleton University to assure that Canadians could find positions in the universities, the prime minister answered that he didn’t care who taught in Canadian universities.

Events moved very quickly in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and Pierre Elliot Trudeau was only a part of them. In 1965, philosopher George Grant published his widely read book Lament for a Nation. In it he declared the end of Canada because of the end of genuine Conservatism in the country. The book gave voice to deep concerns that were felt far beyond Walter Gordon’s political circles. On the Left, even, some people supporting the Waffle Movement in the NDP later acknowledged that
Grant’s book had inspired them to join the fight for an independent Canada. In the decades that followed, some commentators have said that Grant didn’t really mean what he said. But when I wrote to him in 1965 to challenge his pessimism, he wrote me back to say that I did not see “the wave of the future.” And he cited the collapse of empires and the disappearance of cultures to support his position.

George Grant was a deeply conservative, Anglican Christian. Like Walter Gordon he came from patrician roots. His family, that is, had mattered in the shaping of Canada. He called out to Canadians to review their heritage and their culture. Quite properly, he was offended by the neo-liberal reading of the work done for Canada by John Diefenbaker. In the devilish erasure of that Conservative lion, Grant saw before Canadians a sorry future. Grant, like Gordon, was a part of the fight for Canada, though he vacillated more than Gordon did both about the integrity of the U.S.A. and about the need to muster real forces to hold it off. Perhaps he was not supported in sufficient strength by other Conservatives like (
also patrician) T.H.B. Symons who was to father the two-volume Report in 1975 entitled To Know Ourselves: The Report of the Commission on Canadian Studies. Whatever the case, Grant’s consideration for an honorary degree at Carleton University in 1970, characterizes the real state of power in the struggle for Canadian voice.

A colleague of mine and I were unhappy about the way Carleton honorary degrees were being granted, one recently to the librarian of Harvard University. We wanted distinguished Canadians to get more attention. And so we decided to put forward George Grant’s name. By 1970 Grant’s name was a household word and he was being taken seriously in the most important debates about Canada’s future. My colleague claimed that Grant knew who I was, and so I should write to him. I did so, and asked if he would help us with our task by sending us his curriculum vitae so we could present it with our own presentation on his behalf. Grant graciously did so. We put his name forward, and listened at the keyhole to Senate considerations. We learned that Grant was being considered seriously; and then we learned he was on the short list and very likely to be chosen for an honorary degree.

The selection proceeded into its final committee. George Grant’s name was erased completely – a representative on the committee from Carleton’s philosophy department claiming Grant was no philosopher. (Neither Carleton University nor almost any other university in Canada taught any Canadian philosophy, then or now, denying it exists.) From so far down the list that no one had considered him seriously, the international, neo-liberal economist who held positions at the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics, and who was a Canadian, was pushed to the top of the list and granted an honorary degree. Harry Johnson was an advocate of free trade, opposed everything Walter Gordon and George Grant stood for, and regularly attacked Canada for wanting to develop its own economy. His address to the Carleton University graduates so offended one of my students that she reproved me for failing to be present. A portion of the Carleton University faculty considered they had won a victory – and, indeed, they had done so.

George Grant can be said to have represented the world of ideas in Canada and – at its best – the world of thoughtful culture. He was rubbed out at Carleton on behalf of an aggressive, neo-liberal, internationalist, free trade economist who, among other things, regularly attacked as backward and small town Canadian interest in preserving the country’s sovereignty.

The struggle was larger even than evidenced by George Grant and Walter Gordon and their supporters. Canadian union members, in the 1960s, for instance – those who were not public employees – were very largely without voice, being enrolled in chapters of large U.S. unions mostly given to business unionism and collaboration with employers. The exploitation of Canadian workers by U.S. unions brought about the creation of the Council (and then the Confederation) of Canadian Unions. That was a development resisted by the NDP because its financial and political ties were to the U.S. union structure in Canada (and still are).

Regular reports were provided of U.S. union centres (
in the U.S.A.) disapproving of Canadian strikes, taking over the Canadian chapters involved, and settling the strikes without consultation with the Canadian union members. In addition, U.S. unions were receiving the payment of union dues from Canadian workers, holding large parts of them, and refusing to provide money for support of the workers at times of strike. Suggestions were made that the money from Canadian workers was being invested on behalf of the U.S. unions and unavailable to the Canadian unions. Doubtless a spur to action on their own behalf by Canadian workers was the information that from 1962 to 1970 U.S. unions collected from Canadian workers in excess of a 100 million dollars more than they spent in Canada. It is money that never returned to Canada.

Two of the primary organizers of the new Canadian Union organization were Kent Rowley and Madeleine Parent, who had been working in the union movement since the Valleyfield textile workers strikes in the late 1940s. The convention to launch the CCU was held in 1969 at the Mine Mill Union Hall in Sudbury, Ontario. I was surprised to be telephoned by Kent Rowley and asked to be the keynote speaker at that founding convention. I agreed, and asked what I should speak about. 
“Your struggle is our struggle”,  Kent Rowley said – having observed the fight I was engaged with to have Canadians hired in Canadian cultural institutions. The convention in Sudbury was inspiring … and a success.

In 1968, in December, the Canadianization Movement was launched unknowingly when five colleagues presented a petition to the Faculty Association of Carleton University asking to be assured that Carleton would move to make sure two-thirds of its faculty would be made up of Canadians. We were attacked viciously – one colleague even suggesting our names be sent to the Ontario Human Rights Commission so that we could face criminal charges. Those things happened with members of the press in the room … who reported on the event. In 1969 the Waffle Movement in the NDP with its slogan
“Independence and Socialism, Socialism and Independence”  was founded. In 1970 the Committee for an Independent Canada was formed. In 1969, as I have written, the all-Canadian Council (later the Confederation of) Canadian Unions held its founding convention in the Mine Mill Hall in Sudbury, Ontario.

Not until the convention was over and a success did Kent Rowley tell me that I was not first choice to be keynote speaker there. He had asked Mel Watkins who refused because he didn’t want to offend the bureaucrats of the NDP. A lingering weakness of the Waffle Movement was its hesitation to support Canadian unions for Canadian workers, a hesitation which grew out of the knowledge that the NDP was completely committed to a very tight relation with U.S. unionism in Canada – despite knowledge that Canadian workers were being sacrificed to U.S. union greed and manipulation.

In the 1971 NDP convention in Ottawa, Waffle candidate 28 year old Jim Laxer ran against David Lewis for the position of leader, and in the last of four ballots gained thirty-seven percent of the convention votes. The Waffle and its ideas held real strength in the NDP. That made no difference.  Or – to put the matter more clearly – it hardened the determination of the NDP power figures to run the Waffle Movement out of the Party. In 1972, at the Orange Hall in Orillia, Ontario, the unelected, appointed delegates from U.S. unions marched into the Hall and cast the determining votes to run the Ontario Waffle out of the New Democratic Party. Without the votes of the appointed U.S. union delegates there was a good chance the vote would have gone to keep the Waffle in the NDP and see its influence help to shape a position for the Party that showed real concern about Canadian independence. But David Lewis, his son Stephen Lewis, and their coterie were moving to the Right – and they wanted no Left influence at work in the Party to prevent that movement.

The Canadianization Movement to assure fair hiring of qualified Canadians in universities and cultural institutions and to augment the offerings about Canada to Canadian students, launched in December 1968, gathered momentum. The momentum was probably fueled by the publication in 1969 of The Struggle for Canadian Universities. Pressure was on the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada [AUCC], the university presidents’ organization, to undertake changes in university policy and to study the condition of universities.

Some years after 1969 I was at the annual meeting of what are called the Learned Societies – the gathering of Canadian scholars from all university disciplines to give papers, have annual meetings, confer awards, and more. Near the registration table of one of the societies was standing Geoffrey Andrew who had been for a long time Permanent Executive Secretary of the AUCC. We knew each other as friendly acquaintances over many years, and we greeted. Geoff Andrew asked me what I was occupied with at the moment. I laughed and told him my occupation didn’t change much (since the battle to hire Canadians and to teach Canadian materials was still on). On that question, he said, he wanted to tell me something because, he said, 
“I think you should know.”  He told me that some months before December, 1968, the AUCC had applied to the Canada Council for money to do an in depth study of the Canadian holdings in universities, libraries, etc., and to examine the whole question of Canada in the higher educational system. The Canada Council had turned down the application.

Then, he said, Steele and Mathews went on the road with the Canadianization Movement. Six months into that campaign, he reported, the Canada Council contacted the AUCC with a question: 
“How much money do you want?”  Geoff Andrew smiled.  “I think you should know that.”  The AUCC knew in 1969 that it would be creating a Task Force to examine the whole question that the Canadianization Movement had opened up. It did not appoint a lead investigator until 1972. It didn’t do so because it didn’t want its own role in the retardation of studies dealing with Canada to be known. And it didn’t want focus on the fact that its members – university presidents across Canada – almost habitually preferred to hire people from outside Canada rather than qualified and excellent people from within Canada.

For that reason the AUCC had to be very careful in its selection of a lead investigator. At one point in the long, long search I was contacted by Political Scientist Donald Smiley. He, it seems, had been asked if he would consider taking on the task. And so he wrote to me. He said he was considering taking a summer – two or three months – to cross Canada testing the waters. He would give public speeches – as I understood his letter – and take questions, etcetera. He wanted to find out if there was a reason to believe that Canada exists. He wanted to know, it seems, if there was a community in Canada that cared whether the country survived or not. And so on …

Then he would decide whether or not the investigation was worth undertaking. I replied to Professor Smiley that if he did undertake such a cross-country tour, I would follow him every step of the way. And every time he took a platform to speak I would ridicule him off the stage.

Professor Smiley’s interest in the project waned. I was then told that the AUCC was considering Ramsay Cook, the Canadian historian who spent a good part of his time ridiculing experts, ordinary people, and anyone in-between who expressed concern about the country – people Cook called “nationalists” afflicted with 
“nationalism.”  He wrote at least one book on the subject in which he never defined what he meant by the two words. His interest … or the AUCC’s interest in him … also waned.

And then the movement of the stars …
and destiny … threw the perfect person into the lap of the AUCC. T.H.B. Symons had been president and a founder of Trent University in Peterborough. A Conservative from a good Toronto family, Symons had studied at Oxford before joining with a few others to push the creation of Trent University. He became its first president. And, according to academic gossip, he became something of a martinet. When he couldn’t get his way, it was alleged, he would – in a temper – threaten to resign, or even offer his resignation. His colleagues at Trent University, apparently, humoured Symons’ idiosyncrasy until he did it one time too often. In a situation where he couldn’t withdraw, his resignation was accepted. And Tom Symons was out of a job. The wonderful irony that followed was that the university appointed a U.S. immigrant academic to become president of Trent University. Symons – not particularly distinguished as a scholar and, if truth be known, probably not very up on his subject – could, of course, teach in the history department of Trent.

Licking his wounds, Tom Symons went (probably not quite terminated as president) to an AUCC meeting. He offered his services to be the chief investigator on the whole matter of Canada, knowledge, and senior learning institutions. The AUCC jumped at the chance. One of their own was available – one who would understand the necessity to avoid asking about the role of higher administrations in the problem facing the country. Not only that, but Tom Symons wasn’t very hireable anywhere else. Chances are, then, he would be very pliable and flexible and cooperative. And he was. He would undertake..

 “to study, report and make recommendations upon the state of teaching and research in various fields of study relating to Canada at Canadian universities.”

It was an historian at McGill University who asked questions after the Symons Report was issued in 1975. Carmen Miller wrote a piece (now on the internet) entitled  “
And what about university administrators, Tom?” Professor Miller points out that Symons adopts a posture which will be discussed at greater length later – the depoliticisation of the problem and the situation in which it occurred. In Miller’s words Symons doesn’t  “place the contemporary problem in its historical perspective.” But that’s not all.

Symons fails to look for the main sources of responsibility in the failure to develop adequate studies of Canada. In Miller’s words the very bad situation occurred among
“chairmen, deans, vice-principals and presidents [who] possessed the power and responsibility to have things otherwise.”  He asks,  “how do we explain their failure?” Carmen Miller is unforgiving. He goes on:  “they stinted neither time nor money as they busily created numerous hothouse institutes, centres and programs so unrelated to Canada that they sometimes imported the staff, students and resources.”  Why, he asks, did they act with contempt toward Canada? The answer, he obviously believed, would be clear if Symons had undertaken to  “place the contemporary problem in its historical perspective.”

The failure would have been traced to the classical conditions which exist in any economic and cultural colony. Quite simply, a colony does not study itself, for in doing so it will reveal its real history, its real present condition, and the means by which to end its colonial status. The statement by the prime minister of Canada in his bear-pit discussion with students at Carleton University in 1969 gains meaning in the light of Carmen Miller’s criticism of the Symons Report. When asked his attitude towards the movement to assure that excellent Canadians would find positions in their own universities, remember – in the face of a huge influx of foreign academics – Trudeau said he didn’t care who taught in Canadian universities.

Miller praises the Symons Report for being a  “positive, expansionist report.”  And – observing the tendency of the Report to recommend expansion in non-Canadian directions – Professor Miller seems to intuit the tendency to return to a colonial perspective because he reports that some have taken to calling it the  “’Uncle Tom’ Symons Report.”  Two facts have to be balanced in discussing the Report. First, the well-financed concentration on Canadian knowledge forced some excellent developments. There is no doubt about that. Secondly – and at least of equal importance – the university presidents and their Boards of Governors knew the Canadianization Movement had to be taken out of the hands of the people who launched it, and it had to be neutered. That had to happen in order to save their own skins and to prevent scholarly investigation and teaching from getting out of hand and focussing too seriously on the real Canadian condition. Symons understood that requirement so well that the Report doesn’t list – in its exhaustive bibliography – the book that made Symons and the Report possible: The Struggle for Canadian Universities. It is an oversight that had to be a matter of policy.

Something needs to be said about the long years of Canadian Studies Commission activity. They can be summed up in a few words (awaiting an in-depth study yet to be undertaken). The AUCC was apparently unaware that in appointing an unemployed university president, it was creating a monster. Made Chair of the Commission on Canadian Studies, Tom Symons became “The Commissioner” and stayed it for fourteen years. To do his work, he went back and back and back to the funding sources for more and more money until his doing so became talk on the street. Having been caught in dereliction of their responsibility to the people who finance Canadian universities, the university presidents couldn’t ask publicly if Symons was taking overlong to complete the work or if perhaps he might be overspending, making a career for himself.

He gathered around himself a coterie of Conservative workers, males. They found their way into parliament, the civil service, and universities. They could if they wished assure the continuation of publication, expenditure, and the production of emolument. In the 1980s rumour was afoot in Ottawa that Tom Symons was receiving contracts below the radar. They were, it was suggested, contracts for work, for research it was intimated, that didn’t have to have the name of the person awarded attached to them – because they were always
$25,000.00 or less. In retrospect one can see how successfully the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada neutered the Canadianization Movement. Tom Symons led activity all over the globe. He fiddled and fussed and gathered personal awards and avoided key issues – but very busily. Always busily. History provides further proof of the neutering of Canadian Studies. Since public attention has been shifted from the matter, centres for Canadian Studies in universities have been under constant attack, have been purposefully underfinanced, and – where possible – have been closed down.
Meeting Tom Symons soon after his appointment, I reminded him that the most pressing problem was the discrimination against young, excellent Canadians in the university job market. I pointed out that – without action taken – each year perhaps hundreds of them faced real injustice. I suggested he could report on that matter very quickly and bring greater public attention to it. All the necessary material was to hand. We had gathered much of it – and the rest was easily available. He agreed about the facts of the matter and refused to do anything about it. His team didn’t focus on the hiring problem for nearly eight years – because, I suggest, power in the universities wanted things the way they were. When the Liberal government finally brought in regulations to assure that excellent Canadians were considered seriously for positions in Canadian universities and colleges, the AUCC went to work to fight the new structure. They have fought it since to the point where it has virtually collapsed and they may bring from outside Canada the really superior foreigners (with a strong concentration on U.S. administrators) they want. The Commissioner of Canadian Studies is and has been silent on all the negative developments.
The failures of the Symons Commission and those in power in the universities may be illustrated by one example. Working at the University of Waterloo, Leslie Armour received a memorandum from the (U.S.) chairman of his Department of Philosophy in the late 1960s. It was answering claims made about the failure to teach Canadian materials. The Chairman declared in his memorandum that Canadian Philosophy was not taught “because there is no Canadian philosophy.”

That set Armour and his colleague and student Elizabeth Trott to work for years to produce what may be called the first serious history of Canadian philosophy in English. It is a book of enormous importance to thought in Canada. (Study of philosophy in francophone Canada was I other hands.) As I have suggested, serious study of the roots of thought and action in any culture will very likely (as Armour and Trott admit) bring into question the surface explanations of power and control. And their book – grossly undervalued by commentators and critics – does that. In addition, it opens questions (in the minds of readers) about the failure of Canadian scholars to connect religious thought in our history to the development of philosophy here, to bring into relation with developing Canadian thought the philosophies and beliefs of the indigenous peoples who met the first European visitors. It exposes the failure of philosophers in Canada to examine before audiences of students the relation between philosophy in francophone and anglophone Canada, and to connect statecraft with philosophical ideas modified and shaped in this country.

Canadian philosophy is still not taught in Canada. As the U.S. department chair wrote in the late 1960s 
“there is no Canadian philosophy”  as far as those responsible for offering curriculum in Canada are concerned. Leslie Armour and Elizabeth Trott finished their book at the height of attention to the need for studies of Canadian knowledge. The book was sent out by the centre for publishing assistance to three readers: Northrop Frye, George Grant, and John Irving (historian of Canadian philosophy). They urged early publication of the text. For reasons best known to colonial administrators, the text was sent out again – to another three readers. They also recommended publication of the text. The book was sent out again to three readers – with the result obviously sought in the first place. Among the third three readers one found bases upon which to argue that the text was faulty.

Leslie Armour remarked that – after all the information and analysis of the text had been completed by Elizabeth Trott and himself – questions could well be raised about what to do next. But a critic had to have the text in hand in order to be able to raise those questions, as the critic of the work did. For four years the hugely important work on Canadian philosophy was tossed from hand to hand in order to delay its publication … or to exhaust its authors so they would withdraw it altogether. The text of The Faces of Reason was refused by the University of Toronto Press and by The University of British Columbia press. It was finally accepted (with deletions) by the University of Waterloo Press four years after it was ready for publication. It was, of course, virtually ignored in philosophy departments across Canada. It is fair to say it has had almost no influence whatever on the curriculum in philosophy departments of Canada.

As Carmen Miller writes in his review of the Symons Report
:  “chairmen, deans, vice-principals and presidents possessed the power and responsibility to have things otherwise.”  But they were the same colonial servants in place when the Symons Commission was struck (with unwritten instructions, I believe) to neuter its own work. Across Canada, newly possessing a research into philosophy in Canada, a work that could provide the basis for decades of exciting, important investigation and teaching about an aspect of Canadian knowledge almost totally neglected – the administrators of universities at all levels turned their backs and did nothing.

Even Walter Gordon – mostly focussed on the ownership of the economy in Canada – grew concerned about literature, education, and public knowledge about the country. He gave his support in later years to the Canadian Studies Foundation, an independent organization attempting to promote Canadian content in elementary schools. He is said to have given it generous financial support. But the Foundation was a drop in the bucket. How could it be otherwise in the face of the huge commitment in higher education to the suppression of Canadian focus, knowledge, materials, and to the suppression of critical investigation into the roots of Canadian being. But Gordon was indefatigable … and he was privately wealthy, unlike most others who took up the fight for Canadian independence.

The Build-Up to a Neo-Liberal State. Trudeau and the Fight Against Independence

(Pages 126-139)


 In the first years of his prime ministership Pierre Trudeau gave little leadership on the independence issue. Plainly, as revealed earlier, his influence was – in the first years of his time in office – largely negative. Following the release of the Watkins Report in 1968 which examined the costs and benefits of the high level of foreign ownership of the Canadian economy, Mel Watkins moved farther to the left in politics and became a major figure in the work of the Waffle Movement in the NDP, founded in 1969. In Watkins’ own words the Movement issued  “a Manifesto for an Independent Socialist Canada which demanded that Canadian public ownership replace American private ownership … ”
Walter Gordon was, and remained, a firm believer in what might be called, in an attempt to be exact – Liberal Capitalist Democracy. He remarked in response to the Waffle position that it  “is not necessary to change our whole economic and social structure in order to retain our independence.”  The people who supported the Waffle Movement made the rather telling points that Canada didn’t really have an independent capitalist class, and what there was of a capitalist group had not acted in the Canadian interest nor guarded the Canadian economy from takeover.

On the matter of an independence policy for the country, both Gordon and Watkins made a good deal of sense – and both were listened to carefully by Canadians. Both had no doubt that the Canadian State would have to take part in the ordering of the economy if it was to remain in Canadian hands. Walter Gordon said as much in a speech at the University of British Columbia as early as 1960. The Walter Gordon and Waffle nationalists were saying only what Graham Spry had said in the battle for a publicly-owned and operated national broadcaster in the late 1920s and 1930s. Spry said, remember, it will be the State or the United States. In the Canadian economy at large, as time has passed since the Gordon/Watkins argument, power over the economy has gravitated more and more away from Canadians and the Canadian State and to the United States.

The Watkins Report, followed by the launch of the Waffle Movement in the NDP attracted much attention. So did the production quite soon of the Wahn Report (1970) calling for fifty-one percent Canadian ownership of foreign firms, among other recommendations to control foreign ownership. Then in 1972 the report on  Foreign Direct Investment in Canada also called the Gray Report contributed to more discussion and disagreement – especially since it was denied release at the beginning, firing speculation about its recommendations and sparking demands it be released. In response to the creation of the Waffle Movement, Walter Gordon and some of his associates founded the Committee for an Independent Canada in 1970. Gordon asserts that it was agreed the CIC “should be strictly non-partisan.”  Christina McCall Newman was not quite so sure. In a 1972 Maclean’s Magazine she wrote that Gordon and fellow founder Abe Rotstein were dismayed that  “the Waffle was the only organized independentist movement in the country” and that its Left direction would cut it off from the  “mainstream.”   Gordon’s intention to enlist the support of  “a wide-cross section of well-known Canadians from all walks of life”   speaks both to his personal influence in the country and his ability to attract and provide financial support.

It is quite fair to say that the two organizations were not non-partisan. In fact, any observer could see that the CIC was made up mostly of Liberals and Conservatives and the Waffle Movement was made up of people left of them. Neither organization was particularly sympathetic to people in the other one, as I well knew. As a spokesperson for culture in the Waffle Movement, I found that materials sent to the CIC on the Canadianization issue were often not printed in their paper or were delayed. I was acknowledged, but not welcomed.

When the Gray Report was completed, it caused dispute. Trudeau had asked Herb Gray, then in cabinet without a portfolio, to suggest policy to deal with foreign ownership. After two previous Reports unacted upon, a third seemed questionable. Nevertheless, forming a small group, Gray finished the work in 1971 and submitted it to cabinet in May. In official records it is usually dated 1972, the date upon which it was made (officially) public. Of course there was an immediate public request to have the Report made public. Pierre Trudeau refused to have it released. His refusal introduced an action by the Committee for an Independent Canada that was full of drama, and that reveals the nature of the organization – and the games played with the independence question by government when faced with public demand.

In his political memoirs Walter Gordon doesn’t say that the presentation to prime minister Trudeau of a petition with 170,000 signatures was made in the middle of the fight for the publication of the Gray Report – though he refers to its forthcoming possible recommendations. And Gordon says nothing about the drama that ensued when Trudeau refused, in June 1971, to meet all sixty or seventy members of the CIC who gathered from all over the country to be in attendance when the petition was presented. Trudeau would meet a few. Gordon reports they included Jack McClelland, Eddie Goodman, Mel Hurtig, Flora MacDonald, and himself. The intention, from the beginning was to apply pressure for legislation on the matter of foreign ownership of the economy. Seven or eight people met Trudeau and presented the petition.

No writer I have encountered tells the story of that event. It was intensely political. It revealed Trudeau at his manipulative best. And it showed, in fact, the weakness of the CIC – partly because its top people were, perhaps, too near the government to attempt to face it down in a confrontation. The gathering on the night before the meeting with Trudeau did, indeed, include sixty or seventy people, among them a few MPs and, other familiar Liberal and Conservative faces of the day. Trudeau’s spokesperson Marc Lalonde – who was at the time a shadowy figure behind the scenes – delivered the message by telephone to the group in the Chateau Laurier that the prime minister would not see that many people. He would see a few. His office could not accommodate all the assembled group. Of course discussion ensued. Some believed the group should insist that all be present especially since some had come to Ottawa at their own expense expressly to be present when the petition was presented. Those who wanted to insist Trudeau see all of those present didn’t doubt that the prime minister of Canada could find a room big enough. They were over-ruled.

A choice was made. Walter Gordon, Eddie Goodman, Mel Hurtig, Flora MacDonald, and Jack McClelland were picked to go. Someone pointed out that the Liberal and Conservative Parties were represented, but there was no one from the Left in the “non-partisan”  group. It was then that Pierre Berton was added – to represent the Left. No one laughed. The meeting with the prime minister was to be the next morning. Someone then loudly pointed out that the 170,000 signatures had been gathered mostly by young people and none was represented in the group meeting Trudeau. And so a student was added to make up the full complement. The next day we learned that there had not been enough room in the office for all the people who appeared to present the petition – and so a chair was provided for the student to sit just outside the door of Mr. Trudeau’s office.

Before the meeting with the prime minister the people who had assembled held a meeting with those who were to meet with Trudeau. The purpose was to make sure the chosen delegates would represent the wishes of the 170,000 who signed the petition and the people who had suddenly been excluded from being present. The meeting was friendly, but the people excluded wanted to make sure of one thing – that those meeting Trudeau would insist that the Gray Report be made public without delay. A motion was made and overwhelmingly passed that the delegation should ask that the Gray Report be released and should refuse to take excuses for not releasing it. That way, the group could meet with the press afterwards and  “make news”  if there was an insoluble disagreement.
When the group that met Trudeau returned to report – in the Chateau Laurier – they reported, as Walter Gordon does in his political memoir, that it was  “an excellent interview and that the Prime Minister seemed most receptive.” (p. 317) What did the prime minister say about the Gray Report, they were asked? He said that to release it would upset the (stock) markets. They were told to insist upon its release. Did they do that? No they didn’t. Since the larger group of non-delegates was somewhat dismayed, I asked the  “Left”  delegate, Pierre Berton, what he had said. Berton replied that he didn’t say a thing through the whole meeting, that people were used to him talking too much so he decided to say nothing at all.

The Trudeau government not only refused to release the Gray Report but, according to Walter Gordon,  “rejected the findings and proposals of the Gray Report.”   And so in November of 1971 Canadian Forum leaked a version of the Report (with the assistance of Abe Rotstein). In May of 1972, the government released the Report, entitled Foreign Direct Investment in Canada, but, by then, no one was in any doubt that the Trudeau government would be slow to act on the problem.

Pierre Trudeau was an admirer of Lord Acton, the nineteenth century Roman Catholic scholar who is best known for his statement that  “power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Acton was a major thinker in his time, and he had a view of war, government, and competition that led him to the belief that little by little governments should resign powers to larger and larger entities as a way of bringing peace, order, and justice to the world. At the beginning of his prime ministership Trudeau gave many the impression that he was – in that context – an anti-nationalist. In the early years the parliamentary initiatives to protect Canadian independence were proposed by others, some forced, usually by the NDP. When Trudeau led the minority government from 1972 to 1974, the NDP, which held the balance of power, assisted in passing much social legislation as well as the figuring importantly in the creation of the Foreign Investment Review Agency and Petro-Canada. The NDP, at the time, was conscious of U.S. pressure on Canada and helped resist it.

Certainly Trudeau’s insistence upon holding Canadian confederation together is consistent with Acton’s ideas. As time passed and he couldn’t ignore U.S. expansionism and its use of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as an arm of U.S. policy, Trudeau became less ready to accept U.S. expansionist moves on the globe and in Canada. That fact probably changed Canadian history. As we shall see … 

The whole period of Trudeau’s time in office is now seen as a time of dramatic actions that changed the face of the country. That is true in matters of internal organization. The move of many in Quebec towards independence from Canada – with the election of the Rene Levesque Parti Quebecois government in 1976 – engaged his aggressive attention. The appearance of the FLQ (front de liberation du Quebec) in 1963 exploded into international attention in 1970 when members of the group kidnapped Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte and British trade commissioner James Cross, later murdering Laporte.

Trudeau has been praised fulsomely and condemned fulsomely for his role in the solution to the problem. The ‘might-have-beens’ of history are offered from all directions. In the event, Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act, employed the army, lifted all human rights in Canada, arrested and jailed hundreds of innocent Canadians in Quebec, and – it is widely believed – saved the Canadian confederation by his militant actions. Historians usually choose to ignore the reports that RCMP created false FLQ cells and blew up postboxes and such in order to alarm the public and get its support for action against the “terrorists.”  Historians, universally, have refused to note the researches which suggest Trudeau and the RCMP collaborated to murder a young man who was intending to return to Canada and lead a revival of the FLQ.

History rarely records that reasons piled upon reasons for the McDonald Commission Inquiry into the RCMP, established in 1977. Nor does it record that the Commissioner – who the Liberal government reached across Canada to Edmonton, Alberta, to find for the sake of impartiality – was a faithful Liberal at the core of the Alberta Liberal Party. He was restricted from examining RCMP activities outside of Canada (and, therefore, the murder of Mario Bachand recorded in Last Stop, Paris), and limited in other ways, as evidenced by the title of his undertaking:  “Inquiry into Certain Activities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police … ”  To suggest the depth of RCMP corruption at the time, the Canadian Encyclopedia lists matters referred to the Commission: 

a break-in at a data processing company and the theft of a Parti Quebecois membership list; 400 break-ins without warrants, mainly in B.C. (since 1970); electronic surveillance of at least one member of Parliament; unauthorized mail openings; the burning of a barn in Quebec; widespread monitoring of election candidates; theft of dynamite; and use of forged documents.

I was a part of the   “electronic surveillance”  of the  “at least one member of Parliament.” I have no doubt there were many others. When the War Measures Act was invoked by the Trudeau government, it was believed to be unnecessary by the Progressive Conservatives, the NDP, and the Creditistes in Parliament. With public groups in Ottawa, those parties were going to stage a large protest on Parliament Hill on the Sunday morning after the WMA went into effect. The huge demonstration never took place because on the night before it was to happen, Pierre Laporte’s murdered body was discovered near the airport at St. Hubert, Quebec – changing everything. In his 2010 novelistic handling of the FLQ crisis called La Constellation du lynx, Louis Hamelin argues that the murder of Pierre Laporte was  “facilitated”  by the Trudeau forces in order to manufacture consent in the population for the draconian measures undertaken by government. The novel is a work of fiction, but Hamelin spent years researching in order to provide a factual basis for his historical recreation. The book has not been hastened into English translation.

In the day or so leading up to the proposed demonstration, after the imposition of the War Measures Act, much telephone communication happened.  I was on the telephone to Erik Neilson, Conservative MP for the Yukon. I was a few miles away in my home; he was in his Parliamentary office. We could hardly hear each other speak – as if one of us was on the moon at least.  “What’s the matter with this line?”   Neilson asked me.  “We can hardly hear each other.”  I explained carefully that it was because both of our lines were being tapped by the RCMP. At that time if only one line was tapped, the speakers might not notice it. But when both lines were tapped, the drain was enough to make the connection very weak. I could tell Neilson was astounded that the RCMP would violate the sanctity of an elected member of Parliament. He not only made a submission to the McDonald Commission but publicly demanded action against such behaviour.

The Commission Report in 1981 served to bring about the creation of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), which has had as questionable a history as the RCMP’s own history in the last forty years. Other recommendations made by McDonald were mostly ignored, leading to an RCMP, which, at the present, has sunk in the public estimation as it is discovered to be connected to more and more lawless activity and to the cover-up of wrongdoing by highly placed corporate and political personalities. The RCMP in Canada is becoming, more and more, an anti-policing force, often appearing to work against investigation in cases where it should be initiating investigation.

At the end of the FLQ drama until Trudeau launched his campaign to  “repatriate”  the Canadian constitution and to create a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the government turned its attention to some of the problems created by a loss of independence. Arising out of the three separate reports on foreign ownership a few steps were taken – and for a short time there was serious consideration of possible global policies to increase Canadian ownership and control of the Canadian economy. In 1973 the Trudeau government set up FIRA, the Foreign Investment Review Agency, to screen the investments of non-residents, to monitor takeovers, and to recommend intervention if deemed appropriate. The life of FIRA was a checkered one, and it was thrown out by the Mulroney Conservatives. They created an exactly opposite agency (1984), called Investment Canada to encourage foreign takeovers.

As well, in 1971, the Liberal government created The Canada Development Corporation, and in 1974-5 Petro-Canada. The CDC was successful in increasing both Canadian investment and Canadian ownership. It owned 100 percent of holdings in petroleum, mine and petro-chemical operations. The federal government, in 1986, held fourteen percent of its shares. At that time the CDC was 13th in Canada in holding of assets. An experiment in the private sector with, at its peak, 31,000 private investors and some government ownership, the CDC was working and achieving its goal of increasing Canadian ownership and participation in the Canadian economy. It was collapsed by the Mulroney government in 1986.

Petro-Canada was launched to give Canadians an active role in the exploitation of the fossil fuels of the country. Before its launch, all the majors in the Canadian oil-patch were foreign-owned corporations. Indeed, before the creation of Petro-Canada, allegations existed that reports of fossil fuel deposit futures were manipulated by the foreign owners to their own advantage and to the detriment of Canada and the Canadian people. Fierce resistance was built against Petro-Canada by (especially, U.S.) corporations, and its head office in Calgary, the Petro-Canada Centre, was named Red Square by its enemies. The undertaking was successful. At its peak it was one of the largest players in the oil fields of the West and it had operations of international significance. In 1990, the Mulroney government set about the privatization of Petro-Canada, reducing government ownership to nineteen percent, which was later sold off by the Liberal government in 2004.

The Mulroney government slashed CBC’s budget in 1986, and that of the National Research Council as well as privatizing Canadair. In 1988 Air Canada was privatized, and in 1990 the Mulroney government took Canada into the Organization of American States. Very much a multi-country organization that kowtowed to U.S., desires, the OAS wooed Canada for many years. It had its modern inception and re-began its life in 1948 with headquarters in Washington DC and a pledge to fight Communism. Canada believed it could maintain more independent policies in relation to Central and South American countries by staying outside the OAS. And so it did until the Mulroney love affair with the U.S. He took Canada into the OAS in 1990.

In 1980 the Trudeau government set up the National Energy Program to assure oil self-sufficiency for Canada, to shift fossil fuel profit-making towards government and the people, and to increase Canadian ownership in the oil industry. The Program was dogged by crashing oil prices, and by resistance from neo-liberals in private corporations and in the U.S. When Brian Mulroney’s Conservatives took office in 1984, they were slower to erase the National Energy Program than other independence initiatives – and Alberta oilmen were so angry they grub-staked Preston Manning’s Reform Party. It went through changes over the years and became the Right of Centre Stephen Harper Conservative Party.

One of the creations by the Trudeau government that was going to back-fire and serve the Mulroney rejection of Canadian independence was the Donald Macdonald Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada set up in 1982. Macdonald, who had been an independentist Liberal, turned into a colonialist and produced a Report in 1985 that urged U.S. dominance of the Canadian economy. In 1987, Macdonald joined Alberta’s E. Peter Lougheed to head up the expensively-funded Canadian Alliance for Trade and Job Opportunities – a private corporation-loaded group created to fight for free trade with the U.S.A. A constant and unremitting factor in all of the creations by the Pierre Trudeau Liberal government to increase Canadian ownership and control of their own country was open resistance by the U.S.A. and the Conservative Party.

The U.S. fought against FIRA and all the other movements to ensure control by Canadans of their own country. When the National Energy Program was set afoot, the U.S. threatened retaliation. The Canadian Annual Review for 1982 reported  “severe strains”  in Canada-U.S. relations because of FIRA and the NEP, and wrote of a  “heat and fury of retaliatory rhetoric in the United States because of the NEP.” Both Petro-Canada and the NEP were widely popular with the Canadian people – even with Albertans, though propaganda pumped out by the neo-liberals since that time is that both were abhorred by Albertans. The Canadian Annual Review for 1982 reports attacks upon the NEP by business leaders and remarks that  “its popularity with the general public seemed intact.” (p.31).

Pierre Trudeau became more outspoken in his criticisms of the U.S. and more concerned with global peace and harmony in his last years as prime minister. In his years in power he helped defeat the move to Quebec separatism, he undertook the initiative of official bilingualism, and he patriated the Constitution with its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In his last years he supported the initiatives mentioned – the Canadian Development Corporation, Petro-Canada, The Foreign Investment Review Agency, and The National Energy Program. Word was in the wind in those years that the government was considering a National Industrial Strategy – which would have been a move to secure greater independent control of enterprise in Canada by Canadians (and benefit to them from increased Canadian ownership.) In 1984 Trudeau retired from politics. His place was taken by John Turner whose government only lasted until the election that year in which Conservative Brian Mulroney became prime minister.

The moves – mentioned in the last two paragraphs – to assure a measure of Canadian independence, probably changed Canadian history as suggested earlier.  But they did not change it as the movers intended ….

Some hint of the attitudes to Canadian independence held by Brian Mulroney and his associates has already been presented. Eight days after becoming prime minister, Mulroney headed for Washington for a meeting with U.S. president Ronald Reagan. In office less than a year, Mulroney visited bellicose, reactionary prime minister Margaret Thatcher of England and held a summit meeting with equally reactionary Ronald Reagan in Quebec city at which the two sang – at Mulroney’s instancing – “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”  As a boy in Northern Quebec Mulroney had sung at parties, we are told, for the U.S. owners of resource extraction corporations in Canada. There are those who say he spent his time in office singing to the U.S. owners of the Canadian economy.

The three – Thatcher, Reagan, and Mulroney – marked a huge shift to the Right and to neo-liberalism in the English-speaking West. In Canada, the resistance to their program and their presence was strangely pallid, especially from the social democrats. Indeed, Stephen Lewis, of the famous NDP Lewis family, and a former leader of the New Democratic Opposition in the Ontario legislature, accepted an appointment by Brian Mulroney in 1984 as Canadian Ambassador to the U.N. Since the Mulroney ideology should have been repugnant to any New Democrat, and since Stephen Lewis was needed in the building and organization of the New Democratic Party in Canada, his defection is alarming. It was a defection because he acted on behalf of the Mulroney government – as its servant – at the United Nations.

The appointment was a brilliant move. With one stroke of a pen, Brian Mulroney could show the NDP was led by opportunists rather than people dedicated to a political view of the country and the world. He could claim that NDP leaders were more interested in personal aggrandizement than in dedication to the social democratic cause. As if to underscore the message, when Ed Broadbent left the leadership of the federal New Democratic Party, he let himself be appointed by Brian Mulroney in 1989 as head of a newly-created Centre, The International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development. Broadbent was well paid. He was taken out of the political sphere – bought out of it, one might say. With another stroke of the pen, Brian Mulroney removed a person who should have been one of the most important critics of neo-liberalism. Instead, Mulroney won Ed Broadbent to his own team.

The process by which the two major New Democrats were bought by Brian Mulroney was part of a movement that ran through the 1970s and continues to this day – towards the neo-liberal depoliticization of the public sphere. 


Tomorrow chapters 11-12

The Straight Goods

Cheers Eyes Wide Open

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